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Giovanni's Room Paperback – January 1, 2013
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“If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one.” —Michael Ondaatje
“A young American involved with both a woman and a man. . . . Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity.” —The New York Times
“Absorbing . . . [with] immediate emotional impact.” —The Washington Post
“Mr. Baldwin has taken a very special theme and treated it with great artistry and restraint.” —Saturday Review
“Exciting . . . a book that belongs in the top rank of fiction.” —The Atlantic
“Violent, excruciating beauty.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“To be James Baldwin is to touch on so many hidden places in Europe, America, the Negro, the white man —to be forced to understand so much.” —Alfred Kazin
“This author retains a place in an extremely select group; that composed of the few genuinely indispensable American writers.” —Saturday Review
“He has not himself lost access to the sources of his being —which is what makes him read and awaited by perhaps a wider range of people than any other major American writer.” —The Nation
“He is thought-provoking, tantalizing, irritating, abusing and amusing. And he uses words as the sea uses waves, to flow and beat, advance and retreat, rise and take a bow in disappearing . . . the thought becomes poetry and the poetry illuminates thought.” —Langston Hughes
“He has become one of the few writers of our time.” —Norman Mailer
About the Author
- Publisher : Vintage Books; 1st edition (January 1, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 176 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0345806565
- ISBN-13 : 978-0345806567
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In many places during those time the risk of harassment and arrest, combined with a diagnosis of mental illness, likely clouded over what could have been honorable and lovely life experiences for young men, such as in the beginning of the book when David woke and observed his friend Joey still asleep.
Now that the world is not so cruel, at least here in the West, where society is less apt to treat the Giovanni's and the Joey's as something akin to zoo animals, and more like human beings, capable of innocence and passion, perhaps a character like David would embrace and celebrate his knowing these two, instead of reacting to an inevitable sense of revulsion he was taught to feel. As it was, an unkind separation from David might have been Joey’s good fortune, unlike Giovanni's fateful end after investing so much time together.
Since there were no words like homophobia sixty years ago and society had not come to terms with how two men might love each other, I wonder why Baldwin knew to write Giovanni’s Room. He may have lived some of David’s dishonesty; but did he also have his own “Joey” experience, where he found himself in the arms of a friend one night, a friend who then walked away and turned on him? I ponder whether he processed some pain by writing about this character David, a character that rained collateral damage on Joey, Giovanni, and Hella, and in the end had to face the consequences of what he had wrought as dawn signaled his return to Paris, and to a circle of life that began the morning he forced himself to walk out of Joey’s house in Brooklyn, away from a friend that deep inside he might run back to in an instant if the world had been a different place.
Mr. Baldwin's novel is bold and powerful, superbly written, and I strongly recommend this amazing piece of literature.
This is a great opening line and like the rest of the novel, it keeps you guessing and anticipating what comes next after every page. Giovanni’s Room is a beautiful, fast-paced, poignant novel that examines the depths of self-denial a person can put themselves through when they cannot face who they truly are. It also shows the effects social alienation has on these individuals as they come into themselves bit by bit—their triumphs, their failures, and ultimately the consequences of their actions. Each character is sympathetic in their own way and their personalities seem so real you almost want to hug them or hit them throughout the book. Some may cry as they read this novel, some may roll their eyes as they miss the meaning behind each perfectly curated sentence Baldwin lays out for us. But, most likely, you will feel a heavy weight pressing down on your chest as you turn each page to reveal yet another moment that is cause for self-reflection. I think Giovanni’s Room is a lovely, classic, and important read that anyone can identify with even when they least expect it. Go. Read it. Now.
Top reviews from other countries
Although I am straight, and have never been remotely interested in men...I have a sympathy for anyone going through any kind of emotional turmoil.
David, the narrator, has a sentience which is impossible to me, and every moment would be painful if I was that aware of my feelings...but it's Baldwin's psychological clarity which is the punch of the book. Its USP.
David finds himself, loses himself, and breaks the continuity with his old life and American destiny in a grubby little room belonging to the charismatic Giovanni. In France, homosexuality was permissible, unlike in the UK, but people's dalliances and relationships were mostly clandestine and hidden away from the respectable veneer of society. Young men, knowing their life could never be accepted in the mainstream, find themselves at the mercy of poorly paid jobs, with no future. And many rely on the patronage of wealthy men, who prey on them in the shadows of Paris.
That Baldwin was a black man, living in Paris, is notable. But despite the obvious struggles Baldwin must have faced in America and France with his ethnicity, there isn't a trace of that in the book. But there is an intensity to sexual politics. And the character of David's girlfriend, Hella, is drawn with sympathetic attention to her own struggles, both as a woman...and as someone who realises the person she loves, she didn't really know at all.
It's not a book I can say I enjoyed although I'm glad I read it.
None of the characters are happy and any happiness they find is short lived. They are unhappy about their own sexuality and this spills into all aspects of their life's. They cannot be happy because of who/what they are. You know that there will be no happy ending.